In what has become a late summer tradition at Farragut High School, The University of Tenne-ssee Men’s and Women’s basketball programs will color Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium “Vol Orange” in two days.
Hoops For Hope is the brainchild of then FHS sophomore Trey Sexton, dating back to 2008, which allows children and adults with Down syndrome a chance to play basketball with the UT teams in a public setting.
The public is invited to 9th Annual HFH, which runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 20.
Rick Barnes, UT Men’s head coach, and Holly Warlick, Lady Vols head coach, are both expected along with most of their players according to Angie Holbert, executive director for Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee.
“Last year was my first time experiencing Hoops For Hope, but I know it’s something our basketball programs have assisted with for several years,” Barnes said. “I thought it was outstanding. [My wife] Candy attended with me last year and she said it was one of her favorite events. I think our players got just as much enjoyment out of it as the participants. You can really tell how much those couple hours mean to these families. It’s a blessing to be a part of something that impactful.”
An autograph session “is usually around 11, 11:30,” Holbert said.
“There is no admission cost, but there will be T-shirts for sale and there will be concessions and that type of thing to benefit Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee for recreational scholarships for individuals with Down syndrome,” Holbert added. “If people just want to contribute to DSAG they can.”
Teams are divided into “three age groups. From 10 to maybe 15 or 16; then 17 up to maybe 25 or 30, and then they’ll mix in the older adults,” Holbert said. “We have 40 to 45 individuals with Down syndrome that are participating. They have to be at least 10 years of age. I know we have a couple of adults who are in their mid- to late-40s who are playing this year.”
As for feedback from parents, relatives and Down syndrome participants themselves, “A lot of them will say they look forward to this event every year,” Holbert said. “Or that they’re counting down the days until Hoops For Hope. It’s something for them to look forward to. They really enjoy it.”
Hoops For Hope hits home on a personal level for Holbert.
“Our daughter, Morgan, who has Down syndrome, is 12. She’ll be playing for a second year,” Holbert said.
A bond has developed, Holbert said, between some of the regular Down syndrome participants and specific UT players.
“A lot of them will play with the same players that they’ve played with in the past. They may have a favorite player on the basketball team,” Holbert said. “I think buddying up with a UT player is kind of cool.”
David and Lisa Sexton, parents of recent Brigham Young University graduate Trey Sexton, are in charge of putting together Hoops For Hope with help from DSAC personnel, Holbert said. “The Sexton family actually organizes it.”